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Global Post: Will Indonesia’s New President End One of Asia’s Oldest Conflicts? (By Marie Dhumieres)

September 15, 2014

Global Post: Will Indonesia’s New President End One of Asia’s Oldest Conflicts? (By Marie Dhumieres)
Saturday 13 September 2014 4:45am WIB (JoyoNews1)

The Global Post

By Marie Dhumieres

photo: This Papuan tribesman is wrapped in a banner depicting Indonesian President-Elect Joko Widodo, who has called for a new approach to the conflict-afflicted region of West Papua. (Liva Lazore/AFP/Getty Images)

JAKARTA, Indonesia ­ “It’s safe here in Papua. There is nothing to hide.”

That’s what Indonesian President-elect Joko Widodo said when asked on the campaign trail whether foreign journalists would be allowed into West Papua.

“Why not?” he said.

It was as if foreign journalists and activists hadn’t essentially been banned for decades from Indonesia’s easternmost province, a rugged jungle outpost replete with oppression, rag-tag insurgents and wildly destructive mineral exploitation.

If Jokowi, as the future president is known, honors his promise to allow scrutiny of Papua after he assumes office in October, it will be a sharp departure from the preferences of Indonesia’s entrenched security apparatus.

Currently, the authorities say they restrict access to the province for safety reasons, due to ongoing conflict with the Free Papua Movement, a lightly armed separatist movement. The Indonesian military has a strong presence in the region, and the few foreign journalists granted permission to visit are constantly shadowed by local officials.

Jokowi, a populist political neophyte with a man-of-the-people image, is one of very few Indonesian leaders not hailing from the military.

Already, the security forces appear to have called his bluff.

Weeks after he was elected, they arrested two French TV journalists, Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois, for illegally working on a tourist visa. The pair were researching a documentary for Arte on Western Papua’s separatist movement.

While unauthorized journalists are usually deported immediately, the pair have now been in police custody since early August. The local authorities have said they were present at an exchange of ammunition by a separatist group. They face possible criminal charges and five years in jail.

To Human Rights Watch, “Indonesia’s Papua censorship obsession” aims to cover recurrent human rights abuses. “Over the last three years alone,” says Phelim Kline, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, his organization has documented “dozens of cases in which police, military, intelligence officers, and prison guards have used excessive force when dealing with Papuans exercising their right to peaceful assembly and association.”

Western Papua was annexed by Indonesia in the late 1960s, after a lengthy independence struggle. Papuans campaigning for self-determination are still at serious risk.

Two weeks ago, the body of Marthinus Yohame, a 27-year-old Papuan activist with a local non-violent committee, was found floating in the sea, tied up in a sack. Human rights organizations report “a litany of violence and abuses,” police firing into crowds, torture, unlawful detention and the killing of activists.

“Democracy in Western Papua is very superficial, Human rights are very weak,” says Jim Elmslie, co-convener of the University of Sydney’s West Papua Project.

With Jokowi’s election though, some hope change is coming. Elmslie says Jokowi, who “has expressed a desire for a more open and democratic Indonesia,” and his non-military background is grounds for optimism.

Jokowi visited the province twice during the electoral campaign. Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been there only three times during his 10-year term. In Papua, Jokowi insisted he wasn’t just fishing for electoral support. “This is not about votes. It’s about giving attention to Papua,” he said in June.

Last month, he met with political and religious Papuan leaders and unveiled a plan to build a presidential palace in West Papua. He says he wants to hold regular meetings with Papuan leaders.

Damien Kingsbury, a political analyst who has written extensively about Indonesia and Papua, says that if Jokowi really goes down the path of dialogue with the Papuans, his task will be “extraordinarily difficult.”

Papuans “definitely want more autonomy, most of them want independence,” he says. “Assuming that’s not possible, they will want proper negotiations around an alternative. That can only happen if the president is prepared to go into these negotiations, and if he has the power to do it.”

He says Jokowi will have to face opposition from both the parliament, where he lacks a majority, and the military, which “has much more influence in national politics than it’s actually given credit for.”

Leonie Tanggahma, a Papuan activist who lives in the Netherlands, says she feels Jokowi does want dialogue. “The question is whether he can do it. He’s not going to have to fight us, he’s going to have to fight his own people.”

Incident – many killed – in West Papua: Second section of document about Incidents in Lani Jaya

September 12, 2014

IV. Humanitarian Team set up in Lani Jaya

Following the events in Lani Jaya on 28 July this year, people
living in the districts of Pirime, Makki and Tiom were unable to tend
their gardens and have therefore faced a serious lack of food.
Because of the trauma and fear they have suffered, they are afraid to
go to their gardens to gather food. Moreover, they have no shelter
because their homes have been burnt down by the security forces.

Apart from that, fighting between the security forces and the
TPNPB has continued, with both sides shooting at each other which is
extremely frightening for the population.

Realising how difficult everything had become for the people, we
decided to set up a humanitarian team to help the people. We have been
helping the people with food and other basic necessities, making sure
that assistance is given to both sides of the conflict. It is our firm
intention to help all the victims.

V. Our assistance is aimed at helping all those in Lani Jaya who
have been the victims of acts of violence and human rights violations.
We have also distributed food and clothing to people in several parts
of the district of Lani Jaya. We did the following in pursuit of this

1. We collected donations from various sources in the City of Wamena.
2. We collected donations from all the churches in Wamena.
3. We have distributed everything to the civilian population
without discrimination in the district of Lani Jaya.
4. We have documented all the events that have occurred in the district.

In distributing the food and clothing we received from the
churches, we focussed in particular on eight places, included Indawa
Kampung, Ikanon Kampung as well as several other kampungs. However, we
were unable to help people in several other kampungs.

The things we have distributed include rice, supermi, cooking oil,
salt, soap, vegetables, clothes and other basic necessities.

During the course of these activities, we checked
up on the situation in Lani Jaya on Thursday, 14 August. What we have
discovered is that army troops and police forces arrived in the
district of Lani Jaya. But we not able to say how many troops are

Photos of the Memorial Service for Dr. John Otto Ondawame in Sydney

September 10, 2014

ICP/TAPOL Urgent Action: Papua/Indonesia: French journalists and indigenous leader at risk of prosecution in Papua

September 10, 2014

Dear friends,

The International Coalition for Papua (ICP) is writing to inform you of an ongoing criminal investigation against two French journalists, Mr. Thomas Dandois and Ms. Valentine Bourrat in West Papua. The journalists are charged with articles concerning treason under the Penal Code and immigration crime under the Immigration Law. In addition to the journalist, the police hold an investigation against an indigenous leader in Lanny, Mr. Areki Wanimbo, whom the journalists met during their trip in West Papua. A human rights defender who has been seen with the journalists, Mr. Theo Hesegem, has also been summoned by the police.

A conflict area where human rights violations are rampant, Papua has been strictly isolated by the Indonesian government from international journalists and bodies. A special permit from the government is required for international journalists and institutions to legally visit the area. No such permit is needed to visit other parts of Indonesia.

In May 2013, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged the Indonesian government to allow international journalists and the UN Special Procedures to visit Papua. Previously, in the UN Universal Periodic Review in 2012, a similar recommendation was given to the Indonesian government.

In accordance with international human rights standards and the international community’s demand, we unequivocally are of the view that restriction on international journalists and institutions visit to Papua should be lifted. We believe that such restriction and the arrest of the journalists as well as the Papuan leader in this case violate freedom of expression to which Indonesia has been repeatedly claiming itself to adhere.

We therefore request you to intervene in this case, by urging the relevant Indonesian authorities to drop the charges against Mr. Dandois, Ms. Bourrat, and Mr. Wanimbo. Activists providing assistance to them shall be free from intimidation, so that their human rights works are unhindered. Please also urge the authorities to open the access for international journalists and institutions to visit Papua.

Facts of the case

Mr. Dandois and Ms. Bourrat arrived in Wamena, West Papua, on August 5, 2014, on tourist visas. The two French journalists were on the mission of gathering information on human rights situation in Papua for a documentary they were working on for Arte TV. They visited the house of Mr. Wanimbo, a Papuan indigenous leader in Lanny, on August 6, 2014, to obtain details regarding the conflict between the Indonesian security forces and the National Liberation Army of West Papua (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional Papua Barat, TPNPB).

The journalists were accompanied by two Papuan human rights defenders, Mr. Hesegem and Mr. Logo, on their way back to the hotel. Mr. Hesegem who gave a lift to Ms. Bourrat on his motorbike, however, was followed and stopped by three unidentified police intelligence officers of Jayawijaya District Police. One of the officers was reported to make a phone call to the Chief of Jayawijaya District Police.

Mr. Hesegem was permitted to continue his trip with Ms. Bourrat, but the journalist was later arrested at the hotel. Meanwhile, Mr. Dandois and Mr. Logo were arrested on their way back in Jalan Bhayangkara. They were all taken to Jayawijaya District Police station.

After arresting the two journalists and Mr. Logo, the police arrested Mr. Wanimbo at his house, along with two other Papuans, Mr. Deni Dow and Mr. Wenda. They were also taken to Jayawijaya District Police station for interrogation.

The journalists and the Papuans were subject to interrogation for 24 hours without being accompanied by any legal counsel. On August 7, 2014, Mr. Logo, Mr. Dow, and Mr. Jornus Wenda were released without charge, whereas Mr. Dandois and Ms. Bourrat were taken to Papua Regional Police for further interrogation. They are charged with misuse of permit to stay under Article 122 of Immigration Law (Law No. 6 Year 2011), punishable by maximum imprisonment of five years and fine of IDR 500 million (approximately USD 42,740). It has been reported that the journalists are also charged with articles concerning treason attempt under Articles 106 and 110 in conjunction with Article 53 of the Penal Code for an allegation on providing ammunition to TPNPB.

For his meeting with the journalists, Mr. Wanimbo is charged with complicity to misuse a permit to stay. As the journalists, Mr. Wanimbo is additionally charged with treason attempt under Articles 106 and 110 in conjunction with Article 53 of the Penal Code, for the allegation on providing ammunition to TPNPB. The treason charge on Mr. Wanimbo is reported to be also based on his activity of collecting donation for a meeting on West Papua’s membership application to Melanesia Spearhead Groups (MSG).

Mr. Wanimbo is currently detained at Jayawijaya District Police, whereas Mr. Dandois and Ms. Bourrat are detained at Papua Regional Police.

Relevant information

International journalists visiting Papua for journalistic works are required to apply for a special permit from the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa has previously expressed that such permit is needed solely to ensure security of the journalists, considering the unstable situation in Papua.

According to Chairperson of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (Aliansi Jurnalis Independen, AJI) in Papua, Victor Mambor, permits for international journalists to conduct journalistic work in Papua are not easy to obtain. The application may take for up to three months. In several cases where such permits were granted, the journalists had to be accompanied by Indonesian government officials.

Four Dutch journalists were previously arrested and detained for 12 hours in 2009, for covering a demonstration in Jayapura.

Indonesia is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which guarantees the right to freedom of expression. Whereas Article 19 (3) of the ICCPR recognises that freedom of expression may be restricted in certain circumstances, the UN Human Rights Committee in its General Comment 34 has specifically noted that ‘it is normally incompatible with paragraph 3… to restrict the entry into the State party of foreign journalists’.

The Indonesian government has been repeatedly urged by the international bodies and other UN member states to lift its restriction on visits of international journalists to West Papua. At the UN Universal Periodic Review in 2012, France made a specific recommendation for Indonesia to ‘ensure free access for foreign journalists to Papua and West Papua’. In 2012, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for a similar measure to be undertaken.

How to help

Please write to the authorities listed at the end of this Urgent Action, urging them to take the following measures:

  1. To drop charges against Mr. Dandois, Ms. Bourrat, and Mr. Wanimbo;
  2. To ensure that any activist and human rights defenders providing assistance to the journalists are free from intimidation and legal threats;
  3. To provide access for international journalists and institutions to conduct journalistic or human rights related works without restriction, in accordance with international human rights standards.

Urgent action targets

Mr. Marty Natalegawa

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Jl. Pejambon No. 6

Jakarta Pusat 10110


Telp: +62 21 344 1508

Fax: +62 21 280 551


Gen. Sutarman

Chief of the Indonesian National Police

Jl. Trunojoyo No. 3 Kebayoran Baru

Jakarta Selatan 12110

Tel: +62 21 523 4240, 384 8537

Fax: +62 21 720 7277


Mr. Yotje Mende

Chief of Papua Regional Police

Jl. Samratulangi No. 8 Jayapura

Tel: +62 967 531 014

Fax: +62 967 533 763

Ms. Harkristuti Harkrisnowo

General Director for Human Rights

Ministry of Law and Human Rights

Gedung Direktorat Jenderal Hak Asasi Manusia

Jl. HR Rasuna Said Kav 4-5

Kuningan, Jakarta Selatan


Telp: +62 21 252 1344

Fax: +62 21 4555 55676


Mr. Hafid Abbas

National Human Rights Commission

Jl. Latuharhary No. 4-B

Jakarta 10310

Tel: +62 21 392 5230

Fax: +62 21 392 5227

August 2014: Widespread crackdown on civil society intensifies

September 8, 2014

At the end of August 2014, there were at least 74 political prisoners in
Papuan jails.

The situation in Papua deteriorated this month, as Indonesian security
forces intensified their crackdown on Papuan civil society. Lawyers,
activists, human rights defenders, priests, tribal leaders and journalists
were targeted for arrests, intimidation, beatings and murder. The arrest
and continued detention of two French journalists in Papua and a Papuan
tribal leader highlighted the ongoing restrictions on access to Papua.

While the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat,
KNPB) has consistently been targeted since their formation in November
2008, there has been an observably increased crackdown on them since April
2014. In the past five months, a total of 81 KNPB members were arrested.
Data collected by Papuans Behind Bars shows that in April, there were six
KNPB-affiliated arrests and in May, there were three further arrests. The
number of KNPB arrests in June rose to 24 as Indonesian authorities aimed
to prevent peaceful events commemorating 1 July, a date Papuans consider
to be their national day. In July, there were 36 KNPB arrests in relation
to a planned boycott of the Indonesian Presidential elections, the highest
recorded number of KNPB arrests in 2014. This pattern continues in August
with the arrests of 12 further KNPB members. One of the 12 arrested was a
16-year-old boy, who faced ill-treatment by Navy officers in Manokwari.
Martinus Yohame, leader of the KNPB Sorong branchs, was kidnapped,
tortured and murdered. Human rights NGO Amnesty International issued a
statement condemning the murder and called on Indonesian authorities to
carry out a prompt, thorough, competent, and impartial investigation into
the killing.

In June and July 2014, mass arrests were recorded in Boven Digoel, Wamena
and Timika. The pattern of mass arrests continued this month with the
arrests of 20 people including women and children, in Nimbokrang district
on the basis of alleged affiliations with the Papuan National Army/Free
Papua Organisation (Tentera Papua Nasional/Organisasi Papua Merdeka,
TPN/OPM). They were detained without arrest warrants and were beaten on
arrest. Human rights lawyers were continuously obstructed in their
attempts to gain access to the detainees in this case who remain in

The humanitarian situation in Lanny Jaya is of particular concern
following the reported burning down of traditional honai houses by the
Indonesian military and police forces. Information received from the
Advocacy Network for Upholding Law and Human Rights (Jaringan Advokasi
Penegakan Hukum dan HAM Pegunungan Tengah Papua, JAPH&HAM) and the
Fellowship of Baptist Churches of Papua (Persekutuan Gereja-Gereja Baptis
Papua), among others, described reprisal attacks on civilians in Pirime
district in Lanny Jaya regency. An unconfirmed number of people remain
internally displaced, as they are unable to return to their villages due
to destabilising military activity in Pirime district.

You can read the full update here:

The full Update is also attached – we hope you find this information useful.

With best wishes,

Papuans Behind Bars team

Papuans Behind Bars August 2014.doc

Incident – many killed – in West Papua

September 8, 2014

Received from Network for Rule of Law and Human Rights in the Central Highlands

[NB: This is a long document and will be translated in two parts.

I.  Developments that occurred prior to the incident

    A group of about fifty members of the OPM attacked the police
station  in Pirime on 27 November 2012 when three police officers and
two others were killed, including the local police chief  Rofli

    A  14-year old girl, Arina Tabuni, was shot dead by members of the
elite force. KOPASSUS on 1 July 2013. The military handed over 450
million rupiahs to the family, but nothing has been done to find and
charge the perpetrator.

   An ojek [three-wheel bike] rider called Nasito, 30 years old, was
killed in Dugume Kampung on 17 July 2014. This is thought to have been
perpetrated by members of the Papuan National Liberation Army – TPNPB.
A hunt is under way to find the perpetrators.

II The initial incident:

On 20 July 2014 at 10am, four heavily-armed policemen from Tiom
were seen riding in a Mitsubishi vehicle in the direction of Pirimedan
in the District of Makki, looking for Enden Wanimbo, commander of the
local liberation army. They were in a state of readiness with the
commander mobilising his troops to hunt down the liberation

In order to be in a state of readiness, it is thought that the
police were mobilising heavily-armed forces wearing their uniforms and
they launched an attack against forces of the OPM. Fighting broke out
between the two sides who were shooting at each other. This happened
at around 12.30 in Indawa Kampung, the sub-district of Awinaya
District of Lani Jaya.

During this fight, one policeman was killed and three others were
wounded along the Wamena main road. The Enden Wanimba group seized
four weapons from the police and a large cache of ammunition, then
fled into the forest in the direction of Pirime. The victims were
taken to Wamena to be treated for their injuries.

On 1 August 2014, from 8.30 in the morning till 6.20pm, the police
and the OPM fought each other. During this encounter, a ten-year old
boy, a Christian named Abetnok Wakerwa, was burnt alive in his home
by members of the police and the army. The boy was the son of the
district chief, Bermandus Wakerwa.

Two weeks later on 15 August, the police attacked Nanim Kampung in
the district of Bogonaterjadi and set fire to many people’s homes. The
precise number of the homes burnt down is not known,


Since the incidents that occurred on 28 July in the District of
Lani Jaya, the villages there have become uninhabitable as a result of
which the inhabitants, all of them civilians, have fled into the
forest, seriously traumatised by the fighting between the army/police
and the liberation army. No one has come there to alleviate the
inhabitants and help them get over their trauma.

Meanwhile, members of the local administration have simply
disappeared, with no officials available to help the local people get
over their trauma. Instead of being there to help the people solve
their difficulties, they have all fled. The civilian population have
been left there in a situation which is very unsafe while all basic
activities such as schools, health facilities and economic activities
are at a standstill.

Conditions of the population are extremely bad.They have no food
or clothing because all their homes were burnt down by the army and
the police. They are living in tents while the police and army are
spending all their time hunting down the liberation fighters in order
to be able to crush them.

There have been efforts to resolve the conflict by calling a
meeting between local community leaders and police chiefs. which was
attended by the Bupati [district chief] of Lani Jaya, the commander of
Cenderawasih Regiment, religious leaders and community leaders. The
district leader urged the Church leaders to help organise a dialogue
so as to be able to put a stop to all the fighting. Meanwhile, some
religious leaders, local NGOs and human rights activists have strongly
criticised the Bupati for urging army and police to hunt for and shoot
members of the Enden group.

Translated by Carmel Budiardjo

[End of first part of the translation]

West Papua Report Sept. 2014: Timor and West Papua, French journalists detained, Bintuni Bay, Jokowi’s prospects, freedom of expression

September 8, 2014

West Papua Report
September 2014

This is the 125th in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at edmcw. If you wish to receive the report directly via e-mail, send a note to etan. Link to this issue: .

The Report leads with "Perspective," an analysis piece; followed by "Update," a summary of some developments during the covered period; and then "Chronicle" which includes analyses, statements, new resources, appeals and action alerts related to West Papua. Anyone interested in contributing a Perspective or responding to one should write to edmcw. The opinions expressed in Perspectives are the author’s and not necessarily those of WPAT or ETAN.For additional news on West Papua see the reg.westpapua listserv archive or on Twitter.


This month’s PERSPECTIVE is by ETAN’s John M. Miller. It looks at differences and similarities in the historical experience of Timor-Leste (East Timor) and West Papua.

UPDATE examines the potential impact a Joko Widodo administration may have on West Papua, noting high expectations for a new focus on the "neglected region." Two French journalists have been detained by security authorities in West Papua; this action may be intended to challenge President-elect Widodo who has spoken of his intention to open West Papua to international media scrutiny. "Development" plans in the Bintuni Bay area appear to be ignoring the voices and interests of local Papuans. Security forces have detained and beaten two Papuans in Manokwari. Widodo plans to establish a human rights court are encouraging, but it is not clear whether the court will address the extraordinary abuses of the 1965-66 period or the systematic abuse of human rights in West Papua extending back even further.

CHRONICLE highlights appeals to President-elect Widodo by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch regarding the need to make human rights a priority. Both appeals include a focus on West Papua. A comment by Pat Walsh offers the view that the Widodo administration may offer the "best prospect" for progress on the decades-old "Papua problem."


Timor’s Success, Papua’s Struggle
by John M. Miller

Fifteen years ago, on August 30, 1999, thousands of East Timorese voters lined up to exercise their long-denied right to self-determination, a process that had been interrupted by Indonesia’s U.S.-backed invasion and occupation in 1975. By noon of that day, most had chosen independence (in preference to an "enhanced autonomy"). As the United Nations announced the result, the Indonesian military and its militia proxies began their long-threatened wave of destruction and violence. This was meant both to punish the East Timorese for their choice and to send a message to other rebellious areas, especially West Papua and Aceh.

After a short period of UN administration, East Timor finally became the independent Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste on May 20, 2002. Timor’s successful referendum inspired hopes for many in West Papua that they might also be able to choose their political status. Indonesia’s elite reacted to the "loss" of Timor-Leste by vowing never to let anything similar happen again. Many in the military were upset about the loss of opportunities for promotion and side income. In response, Indonesia combined grants of "special autonomy" with harsh crackdowns in Aceh and West Papua.

There are many parallels between West Papua and Timor-Leste and, as tellingly, substantial differences. First some of the parallels:

On the periphery of the archipelago, neither territory was part of Indonesia as it was established on independence. The colonizers of both had said that they would help them exercise their own rights to self-determination. Initially, the United Nations also agreed. In both cases, when Indonesia acted to annex the territories, major powers — especially the United States — actively supported Indonesia. (Indonesia’s takeovers serve as bookends to Henry Kissinger’s career at the highest levels of the U.S. government. The annexation of West Papua was completed soon after he began serving as Nixon’s National Security Advisor; Indonesia’s invasion of Portuguese Timor was notoriously given the green light by President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger a little more than a year before Ford’s term ended.)

The populations of both territories suffered massive human rights violations, from arbitrary arrests and systematic rape and torture to discrimination. Indonesian security forces engaged in mass murder, deliberate starvation, and massacres — some well-known, others little documented. Indonesia stands accused of genocide in both regions. Where the number of pre-invasion colonizers was relatively small, both places saw an influx of people from Indonesia under formal and informal transmigration programs. Children, orphaned by war or otherwise, were permanently removed to other islands. Underlying this was a paternalistic and racist attitude holding that the mostly darker-skinned peoples of Timor and Papua were too stupid or primitive to govern themselves.

No Indonesian generals or political leaders have been held accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in occupied Timor-Leste. The same is true for West Papua. This impunity contributes to ongoing human rights violation in West Papua.

After a time, both territories were opened to tourism, but the Indonesian government worked to keep journalists, diplomats, and others from freely visiting to investigate conditions.

Importantly, as many insisted their causes were lost, both populations continued to insist on their right to self-determination. In the face of Indonesia’s overwhelming force, aided by weapons and training from the United States and others, the armed opposition became less prominent and resistance tactics shifted to emphasize nonviolent opposition in the towns and cities and stepped up outreach and diplomatic efforts abroad. Indonesia’s violent reaction to peaceful protest crucially highlighted the real nature of its rule over its unwilling subjects.

Now some major differences:

While Portuguese Timor was sometimes included in Indonesia’s leaders’ conception of a greater Indonesia, they never argued for any historic claim to the territory, instead they said that they were protecting their neighbor from civil conflict. On the other hand, West Papua — with its Dutch colonial heritage and its place in "the Indonesian nationalist imagination as ‘the martyr place of the struggle for independence,’in the words of Sukarno" – was always seen as an important piece of a unified Indonesian state.

Timor’s petroleum and other limited resources are mere drops in Indonesia’s bucket compared to the great mineral and other natural resource wealth of West Papua.

Critically, while Timor’s self-determination was never considered fully settled until it gained independence, the United Nations views the issue as closed for West Papua. Despite its well-documented flaws, the 1969 "Act of Free Choice" was accepted as valid and West Papua was taken off the UN agenda. (The Indonesians tried a similar gambit after invading Portuguese Timor. In November 1975, representatives of four Timorese political parties signed the Balibo Declaration, supposedly inviting Indonesia annexation. The declaration was written hastily in Bali, not the Timorese border town notorious for the pre-invasion murder of five Australian based journalists. )

Unlike West Papua, Timor remained on the UN agenda, even after Indonesia formally annexed Timor as its 27th province in 1976. The UN Security Council quickly, though ineffectually, condemned the invasion in two resolutions (on December 22 1975, and April 22, 1976) and the General Assembly passed annual resolutions supporting Timor-Leste’s right to self-determination, beginning on December 12, 1975, through to November 1982, when the issue was placed under the good offices of the Secretary-General. The Committee of 24 on decolonization held annual hearings on Timor up until it was removed from the UN’s list of non-self governing territories on independence in 2002.

Even some staunch Suharto supporters like the U.S. government were not ready to unconditionally endorse how Timor became part of Indonesia. State Department officials were always careful to say "We accept Indonesia’s incorporation of East Timor without maintaining that a valid act of self-determination has taken place." When asked about West Papua, the response has no such nuance. It is usually some variation of these remarks by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from September 2012: "Regarding the very important question on the situation in Papua, we support the territorial integrity [of Indonesia] and that includes Papua and West Papua provinces. We believe strongly that dialogue between Papuan representatives [and] the Indonesian Government would help address concerns that the Papuans have and assist in resolving conflict peacefully, improving governance and development." This is usually followed by support for the "special autonomy" many in West Papua have rejected and a statement deploring violence without identifying Indonesia’s security forces as the main perpetrators.

To reinforce its diplomatic efforts, the Timorese resistance had the support of Portugal and the Portuguese-speaking African countries. Portugal as an EU member vetoed certain forms of cooperation with Indonesia and acted for the Timorese resistance in UN-sponsored negotiations. The Dutch government has shown no interest in advocating for West Papua, and Vanuatu has been its only consistently supportive government.

Once Suharto fell, there were many — inside and outside governments and the United Nations — poised to seize the opportunity to press for Timor’s self-determination. And seize it they did. Building on past activism and advocacy, U.S. policy changed to an explicit call for "a valid act of self-determination." (For an overview of how U.S. policy toward East Timor shifted during the 1990s see here.)

The above is history and government policies. What about movements for change?

Awareness of West Papua is certainly growing, as is the number of people acting as advocates. West Papuans, often at great risk, continue to resist and demonstrate within the territory and Indonesia proper. And Papuans are traveling the globe to advocate for themselves. Grassroots global support is important, but outside of Portugal support for Timor was never a mass movement except for a few weeks in September 1999. Changes in U.S. policy were the result of targeted advocacy mostly aimed at ending U.S. support for the Indonesian military in response to growing congressional concern about the violations of human rights.

In the 1990s, the Timorese resistance was clearly unified, both within the country and abroad, under the umbrella of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT). Its positions were clear, as was its main request to international solidarity activists: change your own government’s policies to end support for Suharto and the occupation. The multiple messages and lack of unified leadership from West Papua is difficult for supporters to navigate.

Post-Suharto Indonesia is now a member of the international community in good standing, despite its ongoing rights violations in West Papua. Indonesia is seen as a democratic example to the Muslim world, a bulwark against China, and important front in the "war on terrorism."

Overcoming the many disadvantages relative to Timor’s struggle, international efforts for West Papua will need to generate greater public support and more targeted campaigning to ensure an effective international response to Indonesia’s 50-year rule over West Papua.

John M. Miller is National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). In 2012, ETAN received the Timor-Leste’s highest honor, the Ordem de Timor, for its role in liberation of the country.

Order from Books on Timor Leste from ETAN


President-elect Widodo Pledges Signals Greater Presidential Attention to Neglected Region

President-elect Joko "Jokowi" Widodo pledged to construct a "presidential palace" in West Papua; a gesture apparently meant to convey the expectation of greater Presidential attention to the region. His predecessor had visited the region only three times in ten years. Widodo also pledged his administration would meet quarterly for "dialogue" with Papuan leaders. These meeting would involve either himself or key members of his administration.

These pledges are among a series of steps and statements which suggest a new direction from the Widodo administration regarding West Papua. Widodo visited West Papua during the parliamentary campaign and then while campaigning for president. He also made a public pledge to open West Papua to foreign journalists and others.

In early August, Widodo met with about 30 Papuan politicians and religious leaders to describe his plan to increase contact between the Jakarta and Papua. The step was reminiscent of a meeting called by President Habibie with 100 prominent Papuans in February 1999. In that meeting, the Papuans told the stunned Habibie that they wanted independence.

Papuan leaders reportedly raised several issues with Widodo related to the Freeport gold and copper mine, including demands for a greater share of money and for the company to move its headquarters to Jayapura from Jakarta. They also asked for investigations of killings allegedly related to the mine’s operations.

Reaction to the President-elect’s statements has been skeptical: "My experience of Indonesian politicians is that any program made for Papua makes no difference – that is, it creates more suffering," Reverend John Djonga of Wamena said. Rev. Socratez Yoman, who was not at the August meeting. said the President-elect "will not solve the West Papua case in the short term if he spends two or three days there." He called for withdrawing Jakarta’s troops and police, stopping migration from other parts of Indonesia, freedom for political prisoners and inviting exiled activists home.

French Journalists Jailed in West Papua

International journalist groups and others have called for the release of two French journalist detained in West Papua. Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat were arrested in Wamena on August 6 while working on a documentary for Arte, a French-German TV network. They had entered the region with only a tourist visa. Indonesia rarely grants foreign journalists permission to go to West Papua.

An action alert from Tapol and the International Coalition for Papua calls on people to contact Indonesia officials demanding the journalists release, "access for international journalists and institutions to conduct journalistic or human rights related works without restriction, in accordance with international human rights standards." And an end to "intimidation and legal threat" to those providing assistance to the journalists. Police are holding Areki Wanimbo, an indigenous leader from Lanny, who the journalists had met. The police also want to question Theo Hesegem, a human rights defender seen with the journalists.

Sulistyo Pudjo Hartono, a provincial police spokesperson, said "We were concerned that [the French journalists] activities were part of a plan to create insecurity and instability in Papua." The journalists "video footage, audio recordings and the journalists’ phones had been seized," said Hartono.

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance said "the detention of Dandois and Bourrat and the ongoing ban on foreign journalists in Papua as blatant violations of Indonesia’s own Press Law (U.U. 40, 1999)." Reporters without Borders called the arrest of the journalists "illegal," and called for their "immediate release."

The Association of Indonesian Journalists’ president Eko Maryadi said that "The arrest of foreign journalists in Papua is not new, but the government’s repressive stance is increasing the desire of the international media to go to Papua." "We are hopeful that new President will be more open to the outside world. Becoming more transparent and accommodating to foreign journalists who wish to cover the Papua region."

Phelim Kine, a former Jakarta-based foreign correspondent now with Human Rights Watch, wrote that the two journalists, "are just the latest victims of the Indonesian government’s Papua censorship obsession."

The two journalists are currently being held on immigration violations, but may face "subversion" charges for allegedly filming members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM). A Papua police spokesman Sulistyo Pudjo accused the journalists of being "part of an effort to destabilize Papua."

Successive Indonesian administrations have long sought to hinder international scrutiny of conditions in West Papua, including the widespread human rights violations by security and intelligence authorities. Applications by foreign reporters to visit West Papua are rarely approved. "Journalists who do get official permission are invariably shadowed by official minders, who strictly control their movements and access to interviewees," writes Kine,

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, like his predecessors, persisted in maintaining restrictions on journalists’ access to West Papua. However, President-elect Widodo during the election campaign indicated he might change course. When asked if as president he would open access to Papua for foreign journalists and international organizations, he replied "There’s nothing to hide."

In mid-August, Papuan students in demonstrated in Yogyakarta demanding the French journalists release.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, "Foreign journalists who are detained in the region without a journalist visa or official permits are usually deported immediately."

WPAT Comment: The journalists should be immediately released and allowed to resume reporting from West Papua. Their harsh treatment is a stark contradiction to the Widodo pledge to allow international journalists greater access to West Papua. The detention of the French journalists should be viewed as a message from Indonesia’s security forces to the President-elect that notwithstanding his intention to allow greater access, they still call the shots in West Papua.

Industrialization at West Papuan Expense

An August 23 report from AwasMIFEE provides a detailed account of plans by the Indonesian government to significantly expand the industrialization of the area around Bintuni Bay in the Bird’s Head region of West Papua. AwasMIFEE reports that "key decisions expected soon will give several multinational companies the green light to build petrochemical factories" in the area. BP’s Tangguh Liquefied Natural Gas project begun in 2005 currently operates there, and several international corporations are interested in building methanol plants which would source Tangguh gas. Companies are also interested in developing ethanol and fertilizer factories .

Not surprisingly, the concerns of local Papuans regarding these developments have not been sought and are unknown. Failure to seek the involvement, opinions, much less the consent of local people before major projects affecting them is not new in West Papua. Local Papuans were not involved in the decision to launch the Tangguh project.

Moreover, from the outset there have been and continue to be problems associated with a lack of accountability by Tangguh project authorities. The August 23 article points out, that problems between the Tangguh project and local people are likely "only get worse as Genting oil commences exploration activities — for example there have been cases of intimidation from soldiers employed by the company." Malaysia’s Genting is operating in an exploration block, south of Tangguh that extends into Fakfak regency.

The breadth of the challenges posed to Papuans in the area derives not only from the development of energy projects and subsequent downstream industrial development. According to AwasMIFEE: "To make things worse, PT Varita Majutama has recently obtained permission for a 35.371 hectare expansion of its oil palm estate and PT Rimbun Sawit Papua has also just got permission for another 30.596 hectares. The forest will soon be gone too, leaving an industrial landscape where local indigenous people little choice but to become dependent on handouts from the various companies."

WPAT Comment: Corporations sourcing workers from outside West Papua is another major impact seen in earlier major projects in West Papua undertaken in collaboration with the central government . This is a harsh reality that exacerbates the ethnic cleansing of West Papua and the marginalization of Papuans in their own land.

Indonesian Military and Police Beat Two Papuan Peaceful Dissenters

A West Papuan daily reports that on August 8 Manokwari District police detained and severely beat two members of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB). The Papuans had written graffiti calling for a boycott of Indonesian National Day (August 17) activities. According to a source who visited the two victims in detention, Oni Wea, a 21-year old university student, was beaten by a rifle butt and repeatedly kicked in the chest. His lip was split and swollen and his eyes were swollen and he was unable see. Sixteen-year old high school student Robert Yelemaken’s lip was also split, his face swollen, and his chest hurt after he was also kicked and beaten by rifle butts.

President-elect Widodo to Set Up Human Rights Court

President-elect Widodo intends to establish an ad hoc human rights court to deal with past rights violations, according to Andi Widjajanto, a member of Widodo’s transition team. He told the Jakarta Post that "regulations which are being drafted by Jokowi’s transition team include a presidential decree to hear cases of human rights violations that took place during the 1998 May riots and a government regulation in-lieu-of law (Perppu) to address the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (KKR) to bring about solutions to a number of past human rights abuses."

The 2000 Law on human rights states that ad hoc human rights courts can be set up by a recommendation from the House of Representatives and a decree by the president.

KontraS, the Indonesian human rights group, doubted Jokowi’s commitment, saying that if he were serious the President-elect should have announced the step himself. KontraS Coordinator Haris Azar said that any such court should prosecute a number of generals, including members Jokowi’s transition team, such as the former head of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) A. M. Hendropriyono, and Jokowi supporter former Indonesian military commander Gen. (Ret.) Wiranto, as well as Jokowi’s opponent former Kopassus commander of Prabowo Subianto.

WPAT Comment: Such a court, to be credible, would need to address human rights violations extending back to the 1965-66 period. It would need also to address 40-plus years of systematic rights abuse in West Papua, including the 1969 "Act of Free Choice" which denied Papuans their fundamental right to self-determination.


AI Calls on Indonesia to End Attacks on Freedom of Expression in West Papua

In an August 29 statement, Amnesty International said called for an"end attacks on freedom of expression in [Indonesia's] Papuan region." Amnesty highlighted the apparent murder of KNPB political activist Martinus Yohame whose body was found near the Nana Islands in Sorong, after his family reported him missing on August 20; the detention and torture of two Papuan students in the Manokwari area (see above); and the long detention of two French journalists (see above).

These and other "recent attacks highlight the repressive environment faced by political activists and journalists in the area and the ongoing impunity for human rights violations by security forces there," the group said.

HRW Urges Widodo to Address Human Rights, Including in West Papua

In a lengthy letter to President-elect Widodo, Human Rights Watch wrote that he has the "responsibility to address continuing human rights concerns in Indonesia." The group writes that "members of Indonesia’s security forces — particularly Detachment 88 and Kopassus — continue to engage in serious abuses… particularly in the two Papuan provinces."

The letter cites three measures that Widodo can quickly take in relation to West Papua: opening the region to "independent observers, including international journalists and human rights organizations"; "the immediate and unconditional release of Filep Karma and other political prisoners"; and ending "unlawful surveillance" of Papuans by Kopassus and others. HRW also urged Widodo to "order an independent and impartial investigation into various allegations of human rights violations in Papua… Such an investigation should hold security forces accountable and bring the perpetrators of such abuses to justice."

Analysis Sees In Widodo "Best Prospects" for Progress on West Papua Issue

Pat Walsh argues in Eureka Street that "settlement of the West Papua issue can only come from Indonesia and the Jokowi presidency offers the best prospects for this in half a century. Creating the conditions in which inclusive dialogue based on mutual respect can occur will tax the political imagination and creativity of all involved. The trust and goodwill Jokowi enjoys, including in West Papua, make for an excellent start to this important enterprise."

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